Category Archives: Bolivia…

Uyuni, The Salt Flats

Nov. 22nd

In La Paz, I met up with some Peruvian friends I had met in Cuzco. Turns out they ended up in the same hostel as me and we all left for the salt flats the next day in the car they had come in. The road after a while got uglier, it was not paved. Then we drove right into a storm, and it started raining. Then the car went into the ditch. We got really lucky that a truck was also on that road and they stopped and one of the guys had to bribe them so that they would help us get out. The Bolivian people keep to themselves a lot, they are not the friendliest and they could not care less about tourists, especially those that can’t drive ahahhaa. So thanks to them, we were able to continue, but only for a little while, until the protestors would not let us continue. We had to wait until midnight, when they would open the road for about 20 minutes to let the cars go by. We waited for about 4-5hs in the car. It was cold, there was no actual food to buy so we were having crackers and luckily I managed to sleep for a bit. The stars were absolutely amazing, the sky was absolutely full of stars, shooting stars, constellations etc! But did I mention the cold? Ahahaha. And so, obviously, I get sick, yet again on this trip. Had I not gotten a ride with the guys, I would not have been able to take the bus. All transport companies were not even trying to go out to Uyuni from La Paz. We continued the road, and arrived at about 4am in Uyuni, found a hostel and all passed out.

The Salt flats

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We looked into the tours, and because we had a 4X4 car, we decided to do it on our own. We bought fruits, gas and headed off to the Salt Flats on our own. It is absolutely beautiful, just white everywhere! The Salt Flats are the biggest in the world, 12500 square kilometres of white salt! 40m of the thickness are alternate layers of clay and salt. So we drove around and the only point of direction we had was the volcano far ahead to follow, which was where we were going. We stopped along the way to take some pictures and in the late afternoon drove through some really small villages, that seemed inhabited because everyone was inside as the night’s cold was slowly approaching. We arrived in Tahua, and found a hotel made of salt. Yes, yes, all salt: the walls, the floor, tables, chairs etc! It was really nice, we had dinner, and that night I got a fever.

We left the next day with the intention to get to the lagunas, but unfortunately we never made it. Since it is a salt flat, and we had no guide, we got a little lost and had to stop and ask the salt workers for directions. We ended up in other villages and stuff which was alright, but then, we were told we were still some 6 hours away. We decided to cut that part of, as to not end up driving there at night and headed off to Tupiza. I think it might have been the longest drive ever! We had left at 9am and we only arrived in Tupiza at midnight, the road being so nice and all. Everyone was tired, hurting and it took a while to find a hostel, but we ended up staying in a really nice place. I spent the next day in bed, sleeping and recuperating, before leaving cold Bolivia for warm Argentina to see my friends.

The Road of Death

Nov 21rst

So my first reaction to “death road” or the “road of death was: Ya right, I’m not going on a bike down a road called death, and paying for it. But after many attempts at conviction, the kiwis managed to bring me along with them. Everyone had been saying anyways how fun it had been bla, bla, bla, so I said fine, if it is that great, how bad can it be right?

We left early to get our gear, meet our guide and head off to the highest point of 4640m altitude.  The road only goes down, for 64km. The first part of it was pavement so everyone was flying down, I was second to last I think because damn, it’s kinda scary la!

The next part of the road, was rocks; not gravel but not big huge rocks either. So that went even slower. After like an hour and a half, my forearms started hurting sooooooo much! At the end of the road it was almost unbearable! All the muscles were just stretched from the vibrations of rocks and breaking all the time. At some point I even wondered why the hell I had signed up for this shit and given in. But in the end, the scenery was amazing, which I could actually appreciate not bombing down the road, and we had an amazing lunch by the pool. We also had a really nice guide and I would say the day was a good one, but I think it’s one of the things that, I would not do it again ahahaha.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

Nov 17th-20th

We left early on Thursday morning for our flight to Rurrenabaque, which is the most important Amazon tourist destination near theBeniRiver. It is small, and there are so many agencies, restaurants and a few shops, but it is still a nice place, oh and hot. The National Park Madidi is the one right next to the little town and it is very well preserved. Some interesting statistics: there are more than 1000 species of birds, making up for 11% of the world’s bird fauna. There are 300 species of mammals, 200 of reptiles, and more than 6000 species of superior vegetation. All of which many are found only in this park and no where else in the world.

We arrived, had breakfast at this delicious bakery owned by a Frenchman, and then we were off on our “Pampas” tour for 3 days and 2 nights. We all hoped into our Jeep and had a 3 hour ride toSanta Rosa. Then we had a 2 hour boat ride to the lodge where we were staying. On the way we saw some alligators, many different kinds of birds and caipiranas and a wide variety of birds. The lodge where we were staying was by the river, it had hammocks, big tables for groups to eat and beds in little cabins. Oh and did I mention the mosquitoes? SOOOO many. When I was inColombia, I bought this soap that is illegal everywhere else and that is meant to be the best. I spoke and was with many people who used it and they got no bites. Well I guess that the Bolivian mosquitoes didn’t care because no matter what I would put on, they still had a feast with my blood!

That night, after watching the sun go down, we took a boat ride, in the dark and watched all the alligator eyes glowing in the water, it was pretty cool!

The next morning, we woke up to rain, so, MORE MOSQUITOES! We left a little later than planned because of the rain as well. We were meant to go looking for Anacondas. Obviously there is no guarantee that you see one and after 2hs or 2hs30 we never found a single one. During this time, I kept thinking of my tetee (grandmother on my dad’s side). She used to be terrified of snakes, even if they were on TV. So there I am, in the Bolivian Amazon, looking for anacondas. I was laughing to myself just because if she were still alive, I know she would tell me something along the lines of: WHAT! You went and PAID to go and find one of those horrific and big things! Ahahaha. That afternoon, we went and looked for the pink dolphins to swim with them. I didn’t go however, but it was really nice to see them from close. The water is soooooo brown you could only see them splashing or when they would some out to breathe. And they really are pink!

One of the funnest activities we did (I think) was the piranha fishing on the last day! I only caught one, but everyone was so excited and happy. Our guide caught two catfish as well. Afterwards we got to eat them! They are not the best tasting fish ever but it was cool cuz we had fished them. It was already time to go back to Rurrenabaque so we headed off quite early because we had quite a bit of road to do. We were staying the night anyways, like most of the people in our group so we all went to the same hostel and went out all together that night. The breakfast they served at breakfast at this hostel, which was included in the 6-7$ we paid for the night was the best I have ever had in a hostel. You had the choice of pancakes or omelette, and it came with heaps of fruit. It was really nice.

The Peace City (La Paz)

Nov. 13th to 17th

We arrived inLa Paz, the highest capital of the world, which is in between 3200m and 4000m. It is surrounded by snow caped mountains, all within heights of 5000m. It is also the only place in the world in which the poor live at the higher altitudes and the rich at the lower altitudes. The city in itself is not the prettiest, but we still had some good times and met some good people.

The kiwis and I went to a hostel that was recommended to us by a few people. We spent the next few days shopping, walking in the city and one day was lost because of too much partying the night before.

During this trip, I read a really good book called Marching Powder, written by Rusty Young. It is about the San Pedro prison inLa Paz, I won’t give any details about the book because it should really be read, but this is no ordinary prison. We only went to the front of it and talked about the book. Next thing we know, a woman comes up to us and hands us out a little piece of paper. It said: Hello my friends, call me, a number, I’m Sebastian. We look towards the doors and see an inmate waving at us. I still have not called him and at this point I do not think I will. It would have been interesting to hear about the prison in relation to what I have read, but I didn’t do it. We visited the contemporary museum, which was nice to see Bolivian artists because we do not really know anything about them back at home.

On our way back to the hostel, we got caught in the rain. We were all wearing shorts or dresses and flip flops. Along with the rain, came the cold. And then, obviously when you want or need a taxi, there are none or they are all full. So, we decided to just walk back to the hostel. The main road was closed for some event or protest and so there were many people in the street. We start running across because of the rain and all, I mean ALL the men started whistling at us, it was like a wave of whistles as we ran across the avenue. It was so embarrassing but hilarious at the same time!

Copacabana and Isla del Sol

Now this is what I was expecting when going to Puno: a little town, by the water with not as many people. I found my expectations in Copacabana on the Bolivian side of the lake. We found our hostel, which had a kitchen, dumped our bags and went to watch the sun go down by the port, it was really nice. Then we walked around and saw the cathedral: I mention this because it was really different looking, with an almost arab look or a palace type of cathedral, definitely something I have not seen inSouth Americayet! We found the market and bought lots of vegetables and fruits to make some dinner. (We were all on veggies withdrawl!) Oh when I keep saying “we” I now mean Megan and Amy the kiwis!

This morning, we found some internet, ate breakfast, walked around some of the shops and hopped on a boat to the island of the sun for an overnight stay. The ride was a little cold, but nice, and lasted about an hour and a half. When we arrived, there were kids trying to bring us to hostels and stuff. Some followed us, offered to bring our bags (we have all our stuff with us!) and one ended up following us until we found a place we wanted to stay. We walked up for about 15minutes to the beginning of the village called Yumani, on the south end of the island. The place we chose was one with a big terrace with a beautiful view on the lake and with a kitchen available if we want to use it. After walking through the village, we all agreed that this was the place with the largest and best view on the lake. The village is rather small, with many hostals, little restaurants and shops. There were a few women selling their knitted gloves, hats and sweaters and we saw many donkeys, pigs and lamas as well. We sat on the porch and made some sandwiches and chatted as the weather got colder and colder. We just kept adding clothes until we all went into one room to warm up a little.